There are many aspects of Islam that are very similar in Judaism. Needless to say, there are many that are not at all like Judaism. Daily prayer, giving Tzedakah, and respect for family are clearly similar. But Islam has one major requirement that Judaism does not have, and I believe it should. It is the Pillar in Islam called Hajj. It is a requirement of every Muslim to visit Mecca once in a lifetime. Not that I want Jews to visit Mecca. In fact, they (along with other non-Muslims) are forbidden from entering the city. But I believe that every Jew should visit the Holy Land of Israel at least once in a lifetime. We should all come home at least once.
I don’t know why it was never mandated in our laws. Maybe living in the diaspora was so accepted that it wasn’t considered. Or maybe since the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 C.E., any Jewish laws that were legislated, in the Talmud, the medieval Jewish law codes, or in the responsa literature, occurred at a time when Israel was not governed by Jews, thus making such legislation difficult, if not impossible, to fulfil. But since 1948, whether the Palestinians or the rest of the world likes it or not, Israel has been governed once again by Jews, so I think such a requirement should be in force. Or at least strongly suggested. And I think the Jewish communities inside and outside of Israel should see that a visit to Israel is made possible for every Jew, not just college students, once in a lifetime.
There are currently 14 million Jews today. Just about half of them live in Israel. If trends continue, due to anti-Semitism in Europe and now in America, the number of Jews in Israel will be larger than the number of Jews outside of Israel, for the first time since Jerusalem was destroyed almost two thousand years ago.
In anticipation of that future reality, and to show solidarity and support for our Israeli brothers and sisters, we need to start to make sure that every Jew gets to visit Israel at least once in a lifetime. We at Temple Israel and in our Wyoming Valley community are going to Israel in March- from the 10th to the 20th . We’re flying out of Newark on United, spending eight nights and nine days in the Holy Land, and returning with many Mitzvahs under our belts.
Some places on our original itinerary we won’t be visiting. We’ll probably not go to the Lebanese border on this trip, and we won’t be serving soup to the Israeli soldiers who will hopefully be mopping up things in Gaza by then. But since many of the soldiers will still be on active duty, we’ll help out with some of the things many of them would have been doing if Hamas hadn’t perpetrated it’s evil on October 7th . We’ll pick apples or vegetables on farms and Kibbutzim. We’ll fold blankets and help at Magen David Adom (Israeli Red Star of David) centers.
We’ll do whatever we can to show our solidarity with Israel. And we will visit holy sites and fascinating sites that are safe and out of harm’s way. We’ll dig in the Bet Guvrin caves and unearth treasures left behind by our ancestors a few thousand years ago. Well, maybe not actual treasures, but pottery shards from their dinner plates and wine jugs that have been covered over for a few thousand years. We’ll visit Jews who live in the same town the Maccabees lived in. And we’ll have dinner with IDF soldiers who have been on the front lines who came to Israel from America and all over the world to fight for Israel’s right to exist. And we may even spend some time with Jack Lew, the new American Ambassador to Israel who happens to be the next-door neighbor of our tour guide, Lee Glassman.
The cost of the trip is $4995 and includes airfare, hotels (including the amazing Inbal hotel in Jerusalem), a phenomenal breakfast buffet every morning and award-winning dinners every night. There is some scholarship money available. If you can’t go, but want to help someone else make the trip, please make a donation to the Rabbi’s Discretionary Fund and indicate that your donation is for 2023 Israel Trip scholarship. Now more than ever in our lifetime, visiting Israel is a supreme Mitzvah. So gather up your shekels, pack your bags, and let’s make the statement below come true (at least up to New Year’s Eve)
BASHANAH HABA’AH B’Y’RUSHALAYIM-Next Year in Jerusalem! – Rabbi
Rabbi Larry Kaplan